New in The Book Club: Essentialism



I hope you enjoyed reading “Manage Your Day to Day” from 99U. I love learning about the strategies other successful artists have used to get past the challenges of running a creative business. “Manage Your Day to Day” offered a great overview of how we can create a daily routine that enables us to be creative and productive. Many of the artists featured in “Manage Your Day to Day” talked about making time for your best, most significant work, but didn’t offer much advice about how to determine what that work is.

Our next book, “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, will do just that. “Essentialism” is a deep dive into how to determine where you should spend your time and strategies for eliminating the rest. 

Today I will discuss Chapter 1: The Essentialist
Next week I will cover Sections 1 & 2
The week after, I will cover Sections 3 & 4

Chapter 1: The Essentialist

In an effort to be a good employee or business owner do you find yourself saying “yes” to everything that comes your way? Do you spend the day rushing from meeting to meeting, trying to please everyone and get everything done? Has your work become unsatisfying, frustrating, or exhausting?

So many of us have the mindset that we need to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way; that being successful means taking on more and more responsibility and finding a way to manage it all. In an effort to do it all, we sacrifice time with our families, sleep, and our long term goals. It doesn’t need to be this way. 

The way of the essentialist means embracing the mantra: “less but better.” By focusing on a select few things, we are able to have the most impact. Essentialism means deliberately distinguishing the vital few from the trivial many. 

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it is about how to get the right things done."

The Paradox of Success

In our society we are often rewarded for saying “yes” to everything that comes our way. Over time, by saying “yes" to everything, we can no longer figure out the one area of our work where we can make the highest contribution. 

This is called the “paradox of success” and it has 4 phases:

  1. We have clarity of purpose and it enables us to succeed at our endeavor.
  2. When we have success, we gain a reputation as a "go to" person. We are always there when you need us, and are presented with increased options and opportunities.
  3. When we have increased options and opportunities we have greater demands on our time and energy. This leads to diffused efforts and we get spread thinner and thinner.
  4. We become distracted from what would otherwise have been our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place! 

This means that success can distract us from focusing on the things that produced our success in the fist place. By learning how to sift through the noise and focus on the things that we are truly good at, we can achieve lasting and sustainable success. 


  • Are you currently a non-essentialist?
  • Have you ever faced the “paradox of success”?
  • Look at your daily schedule, are you devoting time to the things that you are uniquely good at?
  • Do you spend the majority of your day focused on other people’s priorities?

Action Steps

  • Brainstorm about the areas of your work and life where you have the most impact. What are the aspects of your work that you do better than anyone else? What are the things that you are most passionate about?